Kyriacos Athens Athanasiou, Ph.D. (B.S. ’84), was named to the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s annual list of Great Immigrants. The philanthropic foundation celebrates the crucial role of naturalized citizens in making the United States a land of opportunity for all, and each Fourth of July honors exemplary individuals through its Great Immigrants, Great Americans campaign.
The Class of 2023 includes 35 naturalized citizens from 33 countries with diverse backgrounds and fields. This year’s honorees include individuals who have fostered opportunities for others through their work as educators, mentors, philanthropists, job creators, public servants, storytellers, and advocates.
Originally from Cyprus, Athanasiou, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of California, Irvine, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He has since gone on to become one of the world’s foremost thinkers, inventors, and leaders in biomedical engineering.
“I moved to the United States from Cyprus in 1980. I have been working hard throughout the years to contribute back to this nation that opened its doors to me,” he says. “The Great Immigrants, Great Americans award by the Carnegie Corporation is an exceedingly meaningful recognition for me because it acknowledges these efforts.”
As an international student at New York Tech, Athanasiou says he was able to experience and function in a microcosm of the American nation. “The university was an amalgam of many nationalities and ethnicities, all working toward the betterment of not only ourselves but our entire society,” he says.
Among his many career accomplishments is being elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest distinctions awarded to professionals in medical sciences, healthcare, and public health. He was recognized for his extensive work, including inventing, developing, and translating technologies, such as articular cartilage implants and methods for intraosseous infusion (he and his team pioneered a revolutionary intraosseous infusion device allowing drugs and other vital substances to be delivered directly through bones) that impact several biomedical fields, including orthopedics, maxillofacial surgery, tissue engineering, diabetes, and emergency care.
He is perhaps best known for inventing implants that help cartilage heal and repair itself. The technology is not only implemented by emergency response and ambulance teams around the world, but it has also captured the attention of pop culturists, having been featured on television shows including ER and Grey’s Anatomy.
“I came to the United States as a dreamy but hard-working young man with admiration for this country that was brought about by my father, a hard-working Greek housepainter who had zero formal education but a ton of intelligence,” Athanasiou says. “I am forever grateful for all the opportunities that the United States has given me. As we are navigating politically perilous times, we complain about how difficult things are currently—and they are—but let’s not forget that this is the greatest nation on earth.”